Today's heroin addict has a new face

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The face of heroin is now young, white and suburban, according to a newly released report.

According to NPR, a survey of 9,000 patients at treatment centers nationwide found 90 percent of heroin users were white men and women, whose average age was 23.

Kimberly Turman has been recovering at the Agape House in Paragould for the past two months.

At 24 years old, Turman already has a long history of drug abuse, almost 18 years, not only with herself, but with family members, too. 

"Over the years, I've just bounced from one drug to another," Turman said.

But four years ago, Turman landed on heroin after a long addiction to prescription painkillers.

"I stopped taking painkillers and started doing heroin because it was cheaper to afford," Turman said.

One prescription pill costs about $80 on the street, while a hit of heroin is about $10.

"From experience, it was easier to get than most drugs," Turman said.

Turman said the high from heroin is also more intense.

"It just numbs you and it makes you forget a lot of things," Turman said.

And that's exactly what Turman wanted to do: forget.

"I was in and out of drug houses growing up with my grandmother, just not really having a childhood," Turman said. "

But during the four years of her addiction to heroin, Turman lost more than she wanted.

"It led me down into a deep hole and it made me lose everything that I had, my children and everything," Turman said.

Her three kids, ages five to nine, were one of the biggest reasons she came to the Agape House.

"I've been in and out of their lives and I don't want to live like that any more," Turman said. "I want my children to grow up in a Christian home, know that there is a God and there is a good future ahead for them."

Turman said the Agape House saved her life and she hopes her story could save others.

"There is a future for all of us," Turman said. "If we want our children to do what's right then we need to do what's right so they'll follow in our footsteps."

Turman said from her experience of heroin abuse, the new face of heroin is what the study claims: young, white and suburban.

Region 8 doctors are seeing the same trend.

Dr. Shane Speights with St. Bernards said prescription painkillers are to blame.

Dr. Speights said these drugs are well-known gateway drugs to heroin. A prescription painkiller addiction becomes expensive, like Turman said, so addicts look for cheaper, more accessible drugs, such as heroin.

Dr. Speights said doctors need to take responsibility for this widespread prescription drug abuse.

"Individuals that are on chronic pain medications, do they really need to be on this high of a dose, do they need this many pain pills at one time, do they need this many refills?" Speights said. "We could really do a better job as a medical community by kind of policing ourselves and looking at that."

Dr. Speights said prescription painkiller abuse has skyrocketed, not just locally, but regionally and nationally, too.

Copyright 2014 KAIT. All rights reserved.